Natural killer (NK) cells are lymphocytes involved in antimicrobial and antitumoral immune responses. Using N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea mutagenesis in mice, we identified a mutant with increased resistance to viral infections because of the presence of hyperresponsive NK cells. Whole-genome sequencing and functional analysis revealed a loss-of-function mutation in the Ncr1 gene encoding the activating receptor NKp46. The down-regulation of NK cell activity by NKp46 was associated with the silencing of the Helios transcription factor in NK cells. NKp46 was critical for the subsequent development of antiviral and antibacterial T cell responses, which suggests that the regulation of NK cell function by NKp46 allows for the optimal development of adaptive immune responses. NKp46 blockade enhanced NK cell reactivity in vivo, which could enable the design of immunostimulation strategies in humans.
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